Posted in book reviews

Day 1 & Goals: 2018 Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon

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And so it begins…
The 2018 Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon hosted by Wishful Endings started today! If you want to learn more or participate, please visit her site!
My goal for the read-a-thon is to finish at least 6 books. Not sure how well that’ll work out since I still have a houseful of kids and a husband, so my alternative goal is to read at least 100 pages per day…
So without further ado, here’s how Day 1 went for me:

Books Read: Hunting Annabelle & Get Weird

Pages Read: Hunting Annabelle doesn’t show a page count on my kindle, but I went from 62% to 100% do that’s Book 1 checked off the TBR already!!! Yay!!!
I read 62 pages from Get Weird.
So I definitely hit my secondary goalof reading 100 pages for the day and I’m on track for my first goal already!

Total Books Read: 1
Total Pages Read: Unsure
Finished Books: Hunting Annabelle
I’m hoping to finish Get Weird tomorrow and start on A Home for the Redeemed. Wish me luck and Happy Reading!!!

Posted in book reviews

Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky – BOOK REVIEW

38769727Title: Mammoth
Author: Jill Baguchinsky
Publication Date & Publisher: November 6, 2018, Turner Publishing
Genre(s): Young Adult
Length: 340 pages
ISBN: 9781684421947
My Rating: 4.75/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.
It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.
Until it isn’t.
When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

My review: 

So I pretty much knew I was going to like this book before I even read it. Some other very trustworthy bloggers had given it high praise, and I was excited to get my hands on it! When it finally arrived, I made the mistake of letting my teen daughter read the blurb, and she offered to fight me over who got to read it first… (Don’t worry, I shut that down and no child abuse was exacted in my reading of this wonderful novel!)
I ended up loving Mammoth so much that I’m not even sure where to start… Guess I’ll just jump right in…
Natalie totally reinvented herself during the summer before she started high school. She doesn’t just dress differently, she’s got a whole different attitude that she wears as a shield to guard herself from her real feelings. “Be awesome” is the mantra she’s learned from her aunt and her awesomeness is obvious to everyone around her… including some of the kids that used to pick on her before she had the courage to “be awesome.”
While she’s putting on the front of awesomeness to the entire world, inside she’s all insecurity and self-loathing. And now that she’s going to be digging up bones for the summer, it’s a lot harder to put on that awesome clothing and makeup she’s been using to hide her true self away from the world.
While at the amazing internship she’s landed at the mammoth dig site, she gets to meet her hero, Dr. Thomas F. Carver. This should be a dream come true, but it turns out to be anything but… and not just because she’s become frenemies with Dr. Carver’s daughter, Quinn, who’s also interning at the site.
Dr. Carver, who Natalie has idolized both personally and publicly, steals credit for a huge find and Natalie and Quinn are expected to just roll over and take it. Another paleontologist, Dr. Gallaher, tries to cheer Natalie up and I just loved it…

“There are two lessons you can take from this,” he says. “First, understand that this kind of thing happens. It’s part of the game. Anyone who’s been in the field for a while knows how you feel. At least you got your first experience with it over with early. You’re way ahead of your peers – and with the way word travels among paleontologists, those of us who matter will know who really found that calf.”
At least it’s something. “What’s the second lesson?”
Dr. Gallagher gives his ample whiskers a casual stroke. “Never, ever trust a male paleontologist without a proper beard. They’ll screw you over every time.”

(Shortly before I started reading Mammoth, my husband had started having to shave his beard for work…I loved his beard and pouted fought him shaving it hard! I totally dropped the paleontologist part & used the above to win my argument that he shouldn’t shave if he’s not at work!)
I loved how real the characters seemed. Natalie reminded me so much of my younger self with her insecurities and body issues, but I also related to the other characters. I loved that she didn’t have a horrible relationship with her parents and that the adults weren’t portrayed as complete idiots. (A personal pet peeve of mine in YA lately.)
Being the mother of two daughters, I love that this book shows women in STEM!!!
I definitely recommend this book to… just about everyone that enjoys a good young adult read!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Turner Publishing. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of Mammoth? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!
Planning on purchasing Mammoth? Please consider using one of these affiliate links: Amazon, Book Depository
 
 

Posted in book reviews

The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich – BOOK REVIEW

38336382Title & Author: The Swan Keeper, Milana Marsenich
Publication Date & Publisher: April 2018, Open Books
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, General (Adult) Fiction
Length: 245 pages
ISBN: 9781948598033
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

Girlhood, courage, nature, and flight from a tyrant’s hand in post-frontier Montana.
The Swan Keeper is an historical, coming of age novel set in Northwest Montana’s Mission Valley in the late 1920s.
Lillian Connelly loves trumpeter swans and vows to protect them from a hunter who is killing them and leaving their carcasses for the wolves and coyotes to ravage.
On her eleventh birthday Lilly’s family visits the Cattail Marsh to see the newly hatched cygnets. The family outing turns tragic when Dean Drake shows up with his shotgun and fires on not only the swans, but on Lilly’s family. Unable to prevent tragedy, Lillian witnesses Drake kill her father, injure her mother, and slaughter the bevy of trumpeter swans.
The sheriff, Charlie West, thinks that Lilly is reacting to the trauma and blaming Drake because of a previous conflict between Drake and her father. Lilly’s mother, sister, and her best friend, Jerome West, the sheriff’s son, all think the same thing: that Lilly is trying to make sense of a senseless accident.
Left alone to bring Dean Drake to justice, Lilly’s effort is subverted when Drake woos her sister, courts her mother, and moves into their home.

My review: 

This book really surprised me!
I loved the way it started out:

Lilly told three lies to go with her father one stormy afternoon when she was ten, the afternoon that she first learned about the swan killer. She said she’d done her chores, she forgave Pa for fighting with her mother, and she wasn’t afraid.

I’m not sure what it is with me picking books featuring liars lately, but I seem to be addicted to them. (Lies that Bind Us, All That’s Left of Me, The Irrationalist, Truth Seer)
It turns out that Lilly is good not just at telling lies, but she can also tell when others are lying – her mom, dad, sister, her mortal enemy – Dean Drake… but it doesn’t seem to occur to her that they must know when she’s lying too. She’s growing up, but even with her “tiny” lies, there’s still so much innocence left in her – even after her father is killed.
So much is thrown at her, and yet she faces every challenge in her life head on. I love her stubbornness and her deep drive to see justice carried out even when it means putting herself in danger! Being someone who loves children deeply, I connected with Lilly on such a deep level that my husband had to remind me that she wasn’t a real child… twice!
(I just wanted to be able to hug her, let her know I was there for her, and that everything was going to be okay. That’s totally normal when we’re talking about a fictional character…)
The Swan Keeper is divided into four parts – White Swan, Dark Swan, In Flight, and Landing. In each section Lilly changes and grows spiritually and emotionally. True to life, she’s not the same person at 10 as she is as a 12 year old at the end of the book. But her journey is FAR crazier than what most preteens experience.
And amid all the craziness happening around her, she’s experiencing her first crush on a boy. She’s known Jerome West her entire life, but suddenly he’s becoming something else to her entirely and she has no idea what to do with those emotions. I found Lilly’s interactions with Jerome as her feelings for him started changing absolutely adorable!
Just when I thought I couldn’t love Lilly anymore, I think I may have found a new favorite bookish quote from her in this book as well…

Books were full of information. She’d learned to consult books and thank God. It was a good system.

Read that and pretty much screamed in my brain, “Me too, Lilly!  Me too!!!” (Again, it’s totally normal to have imaginary conversations with fictional characters… Stop judging me!!!)
As much as I ended up loving this book, I wasn’t so sure about The Swan Keeper when I first started reading it.  There were a couple of pages before the first chapter that I assumed was a prologue. It didn’t make sense to me until the end of the book, when I realized it was basically excerpts from the last part. I really wish I had just skipped it and gone straight to Chapter 1… if you pick it up, I suggest you do the same!
My only other complaint is that there are a couple of times where people speak and it doesn’t seem completely normal to me. For instance, a character that uses the word “‘specially” for “especially” would use “isn’t” instead of “is not.” That might not throw other readers, but things like that stick out to me and drive me batty if it happens too often. Thankfully, it only happened a couple of times in this book so it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

I received a review copy of this book from the author. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of my review of The Swan Keeper? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

Planning on purchasing The Swan Keeper? Please use my affiliate links: Amazon, Book Depository
 
 

Posted in book reviews

Dark Queen Rising by Paul Doherty – BOOK REVIEW

cover141884-mediumTitle: Dark Queen Rising
Author: Paul Doherty
Publication Date & Publisher: October 1, 2018, Severn House
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Length: 224 pages
ISBN: 9781780291079
My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

First in a brand-new historical mystery series featuring Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII and matriarch of the Tudor dynasty.
May, 1471. The Wars of the Roses are reaching their bitter and bloody climax. Edward of York has claimed the English throne, and his supporters are extracting a savage revenge on all who supported the Lancastrian cause. Surrounded by enemies wherever she turns, the position of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and mother to Henry Tudor, the last remaining hope of the House of Lancaster, is precarious to say the least.
Determined to protect her son whatever it takes, Margaret must rely on her sharp-witted clerk Christopher Ulswicke to be her eyes and ears. When four bodies are discovered in a London tavern, their throats slit, and Margaret herself is suspected of being behind the crime, it’’s up to Ulswicke to prove his mistress’ innocence and unmask the real killer.

My review: 

This may be a really confusing review… which is probably good because I’m really conflicted on exactly how I feel about Dark Queen Rising.
I picked Dark Queen Rising fully expecting more murder mystery than historical fiction, but I personally wouldn’t have categorized it as a mystery at all.
Although it didn’t have the mystery I was looking for, overall, I did actually enjoy the story. It begins with Margaret witnessing a horrific slaughter in what should have been a place of sanctuary. (I mean, how could you go wrong from there, right?)
The story goes back and forth between Margaret and her trusted henchman, Ulswicke. Ulswicke was definitely my favorite character in this book! He’s funny, smart, and scary all at the same time. He also came across as more of believable/relatable character than Margaret (which seems a little odd now that I’m sitting here writing it down for all the world to see. I mean, he kinda kills some people… weird).
At the beginning of the book, there are a lot of people thrown at you and it got confusing for me trying to keep up with everyone. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for the main characters to surface and it gets easier to follow who’s who, who did what, who’s on who’s side, etc. There was also a handy dandy list of key players at the start, so that was nice!
There were times when it seemed like there was too much detail and it slowed the pacing down for me. Other times, I couldn’t seem to put the book down because I was so into it! (Another sign of how conflicted I am with this one!)
I could totally see this being made into a movie. And I’d definitely go watch it… and I’ll probably be reading the next book in this series when it comes out… So a definite “okay” pick…
I’d recommend it for fans of historical fiction, especially fans of fiction during the War of the Roses.

Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House for providing me with a free digital copy of this book. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of Dark Queen Rising? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!
Affiliate Links to Purchase Dark Queen Rising: Amazon, Book Depository
 

Posted in WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday -September 12, 2018

img_1384-0Hello everyone! It’s time once again for WWW Wednesday !
WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.
Don’t know what WWW Wendesday is or how to participate??? All you need to do is answer the following three questions and link back to Taking on a World of Words, or you can put your answers in the comments on her blog! (You can also leave your link in my comments to be sure I don’t miss your post!)

The three WWW questions are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

cover135697-medium40947713
Yeah, I know I usually give a little insight into my current reads, but I just started these this morning, so I’ve got nothing to say other than I’m currently reading them…
 

I recently finished:

the_sun_king_by_allison_lee_palmer_200

If you read my review, then you know that I really enjoyed reading The Sun King by Allison Lee Palmer. As noted in the review, I was disappointed with the ending, but it was still a great read!
 
 
 
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The Lying King is a children’s story by Alex Beard. I probably enjoyed it a little too much, honestly… but I’ll talk more about that in the review next week! For now, let’s just say it’s a very timely story.

 
 

I finally read Dark Queen Rising by Paul Doherty. Since the review will up later today, I’m just saying “Yep, it’s been read.” Read the review!

What I’ll be reading next:

76_125_book-2251-cover76_125_book-2613-cover
 
What’s your WWW? Any thoughts on the books above?  Leave a comment or send me a message through the Contact Me page.
Want to support my laziness??? Feel free to leave a link to your own WWW Wednesday post in case I miss it over on Taking on a World of Words. (The link list is long over there guys, and I’ve got a lot of books to read…)

Posted in book reviews

The Sun King by Allison Lee Palmer – BOOK REVIEW

the_sun_king_by_allison_lee_palmer_200Title & Author: The Sun King, Allison Lee Palmer
Publication Date & Publisher: October 2017, Open Books
Genre(s):  General (Adult) Fiction
ISBN: 9781370072774
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

A mother, her son, and mania.
In this fictionalized memoir, a mother recounts the emotional journey she and her son take when he becomes mentally ill.
Jack is known as the Sun King because as a child he resembled the illustrated boy in his mother’s deck of tarot cards. Already on the verge of madness, Jack leaves for college in Ohio but secretly decides not to take his medicine. When Jack becomes manic, his mother must retrieve him from a psychiatric hospital and bring him home to Oklahoma. She and Jack spend the next year dealing with court hearings, doctor appointments, and counseling sessions precipitated by his bipolar disorder and resultant psychosis.
Guiding Jack back to sanity leads his mother to a fateful decision—one that brings about her own emotional unraveling. In the end, it is the Sun King who must save his mother.

My review: 

This book started out absolutely amazing!!! By Chapter 3, I was beginning to send out texts and Snaps to my friends letting them know they NEED to read this ASAP! It’s a story about a very serious issue and situation that’s told in a way that’s sometimes hilarious, other times serious or sarcastic, and always deeply emotional.
The Sun King tells the story of the narrator and her only son, Jack, who is suffering from mental illness. The story begins with his latest stint in a mental hospital after he’s stopped taking his meds (again.)
When Jack’s mom discovered he wasn’t taking his medicine, she began searching for ways to help her son. She searched the internet and tried, unsuccessfully, to help with the herbal remedies she bought at the local health store.
The entire story is told from Jack’s mother’s perspective. I found myself laughing often at her view of the days when Jack’s illness was just starting to manifest itself. Having a daughter who recently graduated high school and began her first year of college with extreme, almost crippling anxiety, I related to her a lot. At times, she seemed to be too close to the situation to recognize the signs that her son was ill. I know I’ve been in that same situation… too close to my daughter to see clearly that she’s about to break down on me.
So I was emotionally attached to both Jack and his mother very early on in this story! When I read this:

In retrospect, I would argue that not only should the purchase of copious amounts of aluminum foil and cardboard be a warning sign at least mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but the constant need for high drama should also be noted in the DSM, because all together they can only lead to the building of this spaceship that matches the criteria for Bipolar Disorder I. But I didn’t know that until later.

I knew this mother and I were the same… I could hear my daughter explaining the need for the materials and my response being “Yeah, that seems legit, baby. Of course… here’s some more foil.”
Despite Jack being the one with the illness, his mom’s life is also flipped completely upside down and she herself begins to spiral out of control. At times, she thinks she’d be happier if Jack had cancer or was missing an arm instead of suffering the way he is. What makes it even harder to bear, is the fact that she’s doing so much and constantly sacrificing for son, and he doesn’t even seem capable of caring or understanding what she’s going through herself.
To give you some kind of an idea on how much I loved this book, let me explain how my reading speed varies between books… Basically, the speed at which I read is entirely dependent upon my enjoyment level of the material being read. So a book I’m kinda into, but not exactly thrilled with might take me weeks to read, while the same length book that I AM thrilled with might take a day or two…
I read  The Sun King in about 6 hours… a good indication that I LOVED the book! But…
the end… it…
Let me down.
HARD.
I’m not completely sure what I expected, or what I wanted, or how I saw things ending, but the way it actually ended was definitely not satisfying for me. I still want to know what happened…I feel like without that knowledge, the story just isn’t over. Perhaps that’s what the author intended, but unless it’s a series, I just hate these type of open-ended, no indication of  happily ever (or never) after, vague endings.
So overall, I still recommend reading The Sun King. I enjoyed the majority of the book so much that even the ending didn’t make me regret reading it.

I received a review copy of this book from Open Books. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of my review of The Sun King? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!
Affiliate Links: Purchase The Sun King on Amazon or Book Depository